1. I type or hand write everything I know about the idea that’s been growing in my head.
Are characters clear, defined, and have their own problems and attitudes? Are they in opposition with each other? Do they fulfill a purpose in the story? What is each one’s purpose?
Does the sequence of events set up an inevitable, yet unexpected ending? Are there set-ups and pay-offs throughout the story? Are the transitions from scene to scene clear? Does the plot support the emerging theme in the best way it can?
Is the setting defined or purposefully undefined? Can the reader SEE what’s going on, like it’s up on the big screen? How do time and place contribute to theme?
Does this story have the ability to resonate with the reader on both a personal and universal level? Is it compelling? Have all the other elements been put into service to enhance and clarify the theme?
Have all the clichés and borrowed images been purged to the best of my ability? Do the sentences act as real sentences? (Tell the reader something specific) Have I said things twice that don’t need to be said? Have I pared away all useless language? Changed most of the general words like “it” to meaningful, concrete nouns that clarify and enhance?
Whether I’ve become one of Malcolm’s experts is highly debatable, but this I can say for sure: 20+ years of writing practice has enriched my life beyond measure. Striving to be good at something is its own reward.
I do whatever part of “getting it down” feels right as a first step, whether it’s a full-to-the-end draft, notes, outline, or brainstorm. This varies with the trigger, the dawning of an concept in my brain, what it is: a title, a plot, a character, an incident, a theme.
If it’s mostly a plot, I make an informal outline, filling in the blanks, the who-what-when-where-how-why of each scene in the outline. I remind myself that scenes, scene-sequences, chapters, parts, the whole story, should have answers to first five questions somewhere in the text. I try to identify the possible theme, the “why,” but often I have no idea.If, instead of coming up with a loose sequence of events resembling an outline, I’ve sat down, told myself to “go,” and put together a draft based on what pops into my head, I search for what my subconscious is telling me, look for possible scenes-segments-acts, and ask myself what scenes have I missed, what might be the theme given what I have typed out in front of me, what the spine might be etc. I also consider the order I’ve placed these scenes in. Does it make sense?
If I’ve come up with notes and brainstorming, and this is my most common way of proceeding, I write a quick draft. Sometimes I do a little research about the “where” or the “what” before I write that first draft, but often I just go.
Time and place
At this point, I look for intelligent, kind, but honest readers to find flaws and re-enforce the story’s strong qualities. I want them to tell me what works and what doesn’t work.
I let the comments of others guide me in decisions, but I’ve learned to trust the little voice in my head. My purpose often trumps someone else’s take on the story.
I read the story aloud, have a friend proof-read it, and proofread it myself.
Here’s the line up from first draft from one of my writing prompts posted above on EDF’s Flash Fiction blog under “Writing Prompt.”
Dare Ya Two!
Second Day, Third Fly-Thru
Second Day, Fourth Look
Third Day, Is this ever going to turn into anything?
Third Day, Another run-What does the structure look like?
About the old guy coming through the door